In the past 15 years the digital technology revolution has turned the global economy on its head, opening up new business opportunities, creating new markets, transforming business models and workplaces, challenging legacy industries and changing consumer and social behaviours.
The great digital paradigm shift, and not for the first time in the history of business, means the future belongs to the nimble, the visionary and the innovative – and to Australian business, according to leading demographer and Adjunct Professor from Curtin University Business School Bernard Salt.
“I’m very positive about Australia’s future,” Salt says. “We are 24 million people with the resources of an entire continent, we should be a prosperous people for a hundred years. We simply need to be innovative and in fact create our own jobs of the future, and I think technology can actually deliver those new businesses, new occupations of the future.”
Networked and nimble
The jobs of tomorrow will be enabled by and dependent upon excellent networking infrastructure, according to Christopher Smith, director of Telstra’s Managed Network Services Practice. Networking, according to Smith, is a bit like our arteries, we all use it every day, but it’s so deeply embedded in the technology stack that we rarely think about it. Nonetheless Smith points out that well designed networks boost the capacity of business to seize emerging opportunities to provide workplace flexibility, increasing talent pools and address diversity issues, factors that have been shown to drive innovation, employee engagement and productivity.
More flexible workplaces and work practices, companies scaling up or down and moving in and out of markets and geographic locations, and the rise of the digital customer are just some of the factors “driving a dynamic network requirement” in business, Smith says.
Add to this the impact of the cloud and software collaboration tools and “dynamic” is truly the operative word. But if this sounds imposing, Smith only sees opportunity at a time when the network is becoming software driven and opened up to application developers to create value tailored to each enterprise.
“What we are seeing now is the network equivalent of what the enterprise software market went through,” Smith says. “We’re about to see a massive shift and acceleration in innovation in the network space, which means more agility and a greater ability to innovate for businesses.”
Business grows from data flows
A consequence of the proliferation of digital networks connecting businesses, supply chains, consumers and workplaces is the massive flow of data, which in turn has created new business opportunities. Having moved beyond the “internet of things”, networking powerhouse Cisco is now using the term “internet of everything” (IOE), to refer to the information that flows from the networked connection of people, data, processes, devices and applications.
Vice-president and chief technology officer for Cisco’s IOE Vertical Solution Team, Aglaia Kong, says the challenge for business leaders is to understand the disruptive impact – as well as the opportunities – that will emerge from IOE.
Not acting on the cascade of data flowing through and around businesses is no longer an option. “Business leaders need to be mindful of what is coming – if they don’t do something about it, their company will be displaced or will cease to exist,” Kong warns.